Although it is slated to stop operating in the West on January 31, multiplayer online title Hellgate: London
will continue in unspecified territories as a free-to-play game, according to comments from Korean publisher and developer HanbitSoft.
The announcement comes in spite of a decision by Namco-Bandai, which co-published the game through an agreement with Electronic Arts' EA Partners and still claims to own Western publishing rights, to terminate the game's Western servers
HanbitSoft has asserted that it owns the IP, engines and source code
for the Flagship Studios title worldwide, and will maintain Hellgate: London
. HanbitSoft has previously been responsible for the game's Korean operations.
The switch to a free-to-play model was the first official announcement the company has made regarding the fate of the title, which during its lifetime suffered from perceived quality issues, and an insufficient userbase, playing a key role in the closing of Flagship Studios
in July 2008.
HanbitSoft also says in an official press statement
seen by Gamasutra that future updates for Hellgate: London
are in the works, with a focus on "strengthening community features" while maintaining the core gameplay as is.
The next "large-scale" patch, according to HanbitSoft, will be released "soon," and will "combine the two game play modes, unifying the split two communities into one." The company also plans class balance improvements and further distinction between the game's five acts.
The Korea-based firm's official weblog statement is written in English, clearly aiming it at the English-speaking market. However, it is unclear whether the company is formally allowed to operate the game in the U.S. or Europe, thanks to the conflicting Namco Bandai publishing agreement -- or whether it might intend to operate an English language version on foreign servers.
Gamasutra has contacted HanbitSoft for more information and will update the story with more information as it becomes available.
: Added link to HanbitSoft statement, international release clarification sought.]